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Province announces permit backlog, secondary suite initiatives at Richmond event

City of Richmond says there is little interaction with the province when new homes are built in the city.
Premier David Eby was at Richmond Plywood on Monday to announce two programs to help build homes faster.

Two initiatives to address the housing crisis, announced by the province on Monday, are intended to help build homes faster in B.C.

B.C. Premier David Eby, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon and Nathan Cullen, Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, were in Richmond – at a plywood manufacturing plant on Vulcan Way – to announce a guide to help build secondary suites and a new tool that expedites permitting for housing as it pertains to provincial regulations.

The Single Housing Application Service (SHAS) is intended to clear permitting backlogs at the provincial level, reducing permit timelines by two months.

The SHAS connects homebuilders to “navigators,” dedicated staff in the Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship, who guide applicants through all stages of permit applications, coordinating permitting decisions across ministries.

As for the secondary suite building guide, this is in anticipation of a pilot project the province plans for 2024 whereby about 3,000 homeowners will be able to apply for forgivable loans up to $40,000 to build a secondary suite that will be rented at below-market rates.

Eby noted housing is a “crisis – a huge issue,” whether it’s young people wanting to move out on their own or seniors looking to downsize.

“We are going at this problem from all different directions because that’s what it requires,” Eby said. “It’s a wicked problem with lots of different angles that we have to attack it from.”

Eby called the provincial permitting part a “key angle.”

“This is a big deal,” he said. “If you’re a home builder, the ability to reduce the amount of time you’re interacting with the provincial government from two years to a period of months is a huge savings.”

Most of the home-building permitting process in places like Richmond, however, goes through the municipality.

In fact, city spokesperson Clay Adams said the city has “very little interaction with the province on permitting.”

‘Land bank’ being created by province

Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon told the Richmond News the province is creating a “land bank,” that is, identifying municipally, provincially and federally owned lands – including school board lands - that could be used for housing, such as workforce or affordable homes.

Specifically, he said, they’ve been looking at “vacant and under-utilized lands” and, in speaking with various government entities, the “response we’ve been getting is phenomenal.”

In fact, in its long-range facilities plan, the Richmond School District lists several properties it owns, for example, farmland on No. 8 Road and on Westminster Highway and several houses adjacent to Paulik Park, assessed between $1.7 million and about $3 million.

The school district also owns a school site in Dover Park, expected to be used in the future for a school.